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M. D. Anderson Helps Teenage Students ASPIRE to Stay Tobacco-Free


The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center marked the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout today with a new version of its ASPIRE multimedia Web-based tobacco prevention and cessation program for adolescents and a partnership with the Houston Independent School District (HISD) and the American Cancer Society (ACS).

ASPIRE, which stands for “A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience,” was developed for middle and high school students and will now complement HISD’s health and physical education curriculum. The program includes colorful animation, interactive experiences and videos and is unique in that adolescents may participate regardless of whether or not they smoke.

HISD health and physical education teachers were trained by M. D. Anderson staff last week and another round of training is scheduled for January. Students begin the self-paced program by identifying themselves as a smoker or non-smoker. They are then led through one of the sub-categories: non-smokers who aren’t interested in starting, non-smokers who are thinking about starting and smokers wanting to quit.

Alexander V. Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator for ASPIRE, noted, “The program operates under the principle that ‘one size does not fit all.’ For example, some teens say they have no reason to quit smoking because they enjoy it and don’t have any health problems, while others want to quit but don’t believe they can. ASPIRE aims to motivate teens to be tobacco-free by addressing the long-term and short-term consequences of tobacco use, including changes in physical appearance and physiological processes they might not be aware of, as well as addiction and how smoking is becoming less and less acceptable in society.”

ASPIRE graphicTested among more than 1600 Texas students, ASPIRE is proven to show a statistically significant decrease in smoking initiation among non-smokers. It will now be deployed in the largest public school district in Texas, with ongoing support from M. D. Anderson. Abelardo Saavedra, Ph.D., superintendent of schools for HISD commented that, “The Houston Independent School District is committed to student academic success, which requires not only a healthy mind focused on learning, but also a healthy body. This partnership will provide teachers with the knowledge and tools needed to engage our youth in understanding the importance of making decisions that will have long-term effects on their health.”

American Cancer Society’s recognition of ASPIRE will help students and parents realize the program’s role in reducing the impacts of smoking in this nation’s war on cancer. The Society provides links to this program through and through the American Cancer Society National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-ACS-2345 for information or quitting smoking resources.

“People who quit smoking, regardless of age, live longer than people who continue to smoke, and quitting smoking substantially decreases the risk of lung, laryngeal, esophageal, oral, pancreatic, bladder, and cervical cancers" said Mark Clanton, M.D., MPH, chief staff medical officer for the American Cancer Society, High Plains Division. “With exactly half of the United States now protected by smoke-free laws, and a variety of cessation resources available, there has never been a better time to quit smoking and enjoy the health benefits.”

ASPIRE is available free of charge to school districts nationwide, as well as teachers and parents. Anyone may access the program by visiting Funded Funded by the National Cancer Institute and the George and Barbara Bush Endowment for Innovative Cancer Research, ASPIRE was jointly developed by researchers in the behavioral science department of M. D. Anderson’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. For additional information regarding ASPIRE or to learn more about teacher training, please contact Kathleen Hill by calling 713-745-3817.

The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center - Making Cancer History®

M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, an institution created by the Texas Legislature in 1941, has established an international reputation as one of the world’s preeminent centers for cancer patient care, research, education and prevention. A multidisciplinary approach and dedication to translational research, education and prevention are hallmarks of M. D. Anderson. Looking to the future, M. D. Anderson is increasingly focused on sharing new research developments and clinical expertise through affiliations with premier institutions around the world. M. D. Anderson was designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as one of the first three Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the United States. In 2007, U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Hospitals” survey ranked M. D. Anderson as the top hospital in the nation for cancer care, the fifth time in eight years that the institution has achieved the highest ranking. M. D. Anderson has provided care for more than 700,000 cancer patients since 1944 and 74,000 in the last year alone.


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